State health officials on Tuesday urged parents to make sure their children were vaccinated against measles, after two children were recently diagnosed with the disease.
According to the head of the health ministry’s infectious disease monitoring unit and acting director of the Paediatric Clinic of Makarios Hospital, Maria Koliou, so far this year, two children were diagnosed with measles.
Koliou urged parents to make sure that their children are vaccinated as the risk of an outbreak cannot be ruled out.
There is currently a measles outbreak in some European countries, which started from Romania and spread to other countries, including Greece, she said.
The children who were diagnosed with measles are two siblings, aged three and six, Koliou said, who were not vaccinated. The two children come from another European Union member state but they live permanently in Cyprus and they contracted the disease while visiting their country where there is currently an outbreak, Koliou said. She added that they are now fully healed.
According to Koliou, a measles outbreak could also happen in Cyprus, therefore, vaccinations are a must.
Measles vaccines are administered to children in two doses; the first one at the age of 13 to 14 months and the second at the age of four. After the second dose, people are protected against measles by 98 per cent, she said.
The virus, Koliou said, is a threat to those who are not vaccinated against measles, including adults.
Measles, she said, is a serious disease that can cause pneumonia, severe encephalitis and conjunctivitis. It can also kill children that are immunosuppressed.
“That’s why we have a duty to vaccinate our children, because our own baby may not be at risk from measles, but an immunosuppressed baby next to it may die,” she said.
Koliou added that currently around 90 per cent of children have been vaccinated with the first dose of the vaccine, while between one to two percent have not been vaccinated due to the refusal of their parents.
The remaining 8 per cent who have not been vaccinated, Koliou said, concerns children who had a postponement of their vaccinations because of a number of obstacles, but have now either been vaccinated or will soon be vaccinated.
In Cyprus measles vaccines are administered free of charge to children but also adults who have never been vaccinated against the disease.
Koliou said that 63 state vaccination centres in all districts offer free measles vaccines to everyone without any paperwork necessary – ID cards, passports etc – to allow also people who live on the island illegally to also be vaccinated.